Summer's Heat Wave Brings Fewer Ozone Alert Days In Tulsa

Tuesday, August 10th 2010, 9:47 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The stifling heat has brought plenty of misery with it, but not a lot of ozone.

Despite little moisture and triple digit temperatures, Tulsa's one and only ozone alert day was this spring.  The experts aren't sure why we aren't overwhelmed with ozone but they, like the rest of us, aren't complaining.

The seemingly never-ending heat wave has taken a toll on Tulsans.

"It's really hot. I have my job I have to walk back and forth pretty often, so it's pretty draining," one woman said.

"I'm very sick of it," another woman told the News On 6. "Give me 80's, I'll be happy."

But if it's any consolation, ozone levels have not risen along with the temperatures. Ozone is formed when the gas nitrogen oxide combines with chemicals called volatile organic compounds.

Hot and windless days usually create the perfect conditions for that mixture, but not this year.

"Right now we're seeing favorable pollution conditions," said Nancy Graham, INCOG. "The meteorological conditions are there, but we don't have the buildup in the air yet."

Nancy Graham monitors air quality for the Indian Nations Council of Governments. She says ozone levels have been steadily declining in Tulsa over the past decade, but given how long this heat wave has lasted, the lack of ozone is odd.

INCOG says it can only speculate at this point, but there are a number of reasons why these ozone alert signs haven't been turned on once this summer.

It could be all the construction on the roadways. People may be driving less, and in turn emitting less nitrous oxide. There's also the summer blend of gas offered by most gas stations. It's supposed to be a cleaner-burning fuel.

Whatever the reason, it's still August, and that means there's still plenty of time for ozone to make these miserable conditions even worse.

"Maybe not, but I would expect that there may be some ozone problems around the corner," Graham said.

Excessive ozone is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems.

8/10/2010 Related Story: How Oklahomans Can Conserve Energy During Extreme Heat